“Osborn was never as smart as his father, anyway.”
The woman spit in his face venomously, struggling with the zip ties binding her to the chair. “Just like you’ll never be as smart as him.” She searched her surroundings frantically, looking for anything that could help her escape her current predicament: tied and tortured in the middle of the New York sewer system, where no one would hear her scream. All she could find was some sort of machine placed on the ceiling up above her. She squinted to try and get a better look at it, but it was hidden in the shadows.
A sharp noise filled the room as the man slapped her, drawing her focus back to him with a cry of pain escaping her quivering lips. The offender grinned viciously at the sight. “Of course I’ll never be as smart as him,” he seethed, “that’s why I have you, silly girl.”
The room spun for her, and the only thing keeping her up were the zip ties tightly wrapped around her abused wrists and ankles, keeping her tethered to her chair. It wasn’t even a good chair, it was one of those older than dirt wooden chairs that are probably worse than sitting on the floor. She closed her eyes, willing her head to stop spinning and formulate some way out of the situation. Carefully, she opened her eyes, looking back towards her aggressor. She didn’t know how he knew anything about her considering how her files were practically nonexistent in any of the multiple places she’s worked. “Extract the information, and then kill her.”
Her eyes widened in fear of the machine closing in on her, metal body descending eerily from the ceiling. Four long metallic tubes with suction cups on each tip could be seen extruding from its square core and reaching towards her quickly. Panic started to drive her mad, and she desperately tried to escape her bindings. Despite her relentless struggling, she only managed to better her position for it, slowly passing out as the last tube suctioned to her head and began to infiltrate her thoughts. “Thank you for your service, dear. But now, the big boys are going to work. You’ve done wonderfully, really, and I’m sad to see you go.” Her hearing was last to go, and she faintly heard his words followed by the cock of a gun. “Oh, yes, so sad. All wars must have a sacrifice, though. See you in hell, sweetheart. Make sure you tell them who sent you.”
The maniacal laughter was her last memory, and then they were all gone. With a final breath, she was dead. Empty in the head, and heavy in the heart. Her memories were stored on their device along the others. They finally had the missing information they needed.
“We need to move!” The man shouted. His blood rushed and adrenaline surged from the kill. It was dangerous to stay on site, someone would have reported a gunshot. “Leave the body. It’ll be our coming out message. It’s time, men. Tonight, we start our retaliation.”
There was running, then the clicking of guns loading, and then finally they were off. It was time they finally fought back on even ground with their enemy.
It was an average day in the Totally Average Life Of Peter Parker. An average city, filled with average buildings that pedestrians of every kind were entering and exiting. In the trees, you could hear birds chirping, the occasional honk from the road. All in all, New York was a city that was exceptionally boring. Peter himself was as normal as someone could get. He was a senior in high school, ready to graduate already, as all other teens were. He had two best friends, MJ and Ned Leeds, who had been with him most of his life.
Hell, Peter wished for that kind of life, anyway. New York City was anything but average, as though it had no feel for what normal actually was. Regular villain encounters were not something you would see everyday, or want to see, but it was the reality he lived in. Peter Parker was the Spider-man, or, as some liked to call him, New York’s Number One Menace. Despite the fact he saved lives on the daily, and had even worked with the Avengers (they weren’t entirely fond of him either, but the public wasn’t privy to that). Even still, he didn’t hate what he did. Nighttime patrols quickly became his down time since he was always stuck working at the Daily Bugle or stuck in school. It wasn’t uncommon for him to miss out on a few hours of sleep, but crime couldn’t wait when it had specifically asked for his time that evening.
Which brought him to his current position. It was late, nearing 3 A.M., if Peter’s internal clock was anything to go by, but the city was still active (hence being named the “City that never sleeps”). The lights of cars passed by one after the other, sometimes hurting his eyes with how bright they were. He was sitting on the edge of a tall apartment building, looking around lazily and keeping his ears open for any alarming sounds, like struggling or gun fire, that might mean someone was in danger. Despite his exhaustion, today was definitely one of his better days. School hadn’t been unnecessarily rough that day because he’d remembered to put his noise cancelling headphones in whenever the tortuously loud bell rang. Peter still didn’t understand why it needed to be quite so loud...or long. He sighed, thought about it, and decided it didn’t matter anyway. He’d gotten around the problem so he couldn’t complain all that much (except it took him too long to come up with the solution so he had all rights to). But with the added relief from his ears, Peter’s mind was relaxed as much as it could be when it fought bad guys.
It wasn’t so bad an issue some days as much as it was an annoyance, but it depended on what had happened all day. Typically, Peter could get through school without a hitch. He’d wake up fine, wouldn’t miss the bus (and if he did it wasn’t a problem), meet up with his friend Ned for his first class, meet up with MJ for his third class, survive his remaining classes, and then go home where he put on his suit. Typically. There were also the times when sometime in between steps 2 and 5, a guy named Eugene “Flash” Thompson would enter and give him the headache of a lifetime. Literally. His head being shoved against a locker wasn’t the most pleasant of things. Actual luck had been on his side that day, instead of his infamous Parker luck, since he hadn’t forgotten his headphones at home, and Flash hadn’t seen the need to bother him.
Suddenly, Peter heard something, breaking his daze as he forced himself to focus on his surroundings. It sounded like there was a scuffle, probably a mugging, happening nearby, so Peter got to work. He swung from his current place, webs bringing him right above the alleyway, and landed quietly on a building ledge.
“Look, lady, I ain’t got all day. Either give me your purse, or I shoot,” a scruffy voice could be heard from an even scruffier looking man.
Spider-man grimaced at the scene. It looked like yet another egotistical man was going after a woman that was minding her own business, trying to get home. He wasn’t particularly large, but he did have a gun, making him an immediate threat. His black clothes made him blend in with the nighttime shadows, concealing his face. The woman’s back was against the wall, thankfully not cornered against a dumpster, but, then again, it still made it harder to run. She still had her work clothes on, presumably a worker for a media company like he himself was (they tended to run late to meet deadlines on stories, even until the early hours of the morning. One time, Peter had gotten home at 5 A.M on a school night, not giving him any time to rest or eat before getting ready. He thanked his lucky stars that he lived alone or aunt May would’ve ripped him a new one for sure.).
“Like I’d give it to you. Look, man , I’m just trying to get home. Can’t we do this another time?” Peter had to hand it to her, she had guts. Still, she was shaking and looking around for any way to escape her current predicament. Her searching eyes landed on a certain arachnid themed vigilante and she had to hold her breath not to sigh in relief, lest she give him away.
Sliding down slowly, Spider-man landed silently behind the guy. “Hey! Don’t you know this stuff’s illegal?” he chided with an unseen scowl on his face while webbing the gun away from the man and to him. He had to admit feeling sheer satisfaction when he saw the man jump slightly from the surprise- serves him right. He turned the gun over in his hand, whistling lowly. “Nice pistol. Though I wouldn’t exactly want it anywhere on me. I don’t shoot people…” He put a hand on his chin, as if contemplating something important. “Well I guess I do… but with webs! Not bullets. Because it’s illegal .” With a throw, it was stuck to the wall.
“Shut up, kid! And give that back!” the offender growled, no longer dazed by his initial surprise, and charged towards Spider-man, but ended up with his face in the wall instead of a red and blue suit.
“You’re gonna have to be quicker than that if you want to land a hit on me, bud. And I’m not a kid!” he grumbled, standing between the woman and man. “Hey, ma’am, you should probably run now,” Peter offered when she just stood there in shock. She did as he said, running out of the alley and onto the streets. The man groaned, rubbing his bleeding face. “Look what you did! My face is all scratched up because of you.”
Spider-man stared a bit dumbfounded at the other’s accusation and then he simply laughed, scratching the back of his head. “Uhh, pretty sure you did that to yourself, dude.” Another groan, and the man attempted to punch him, hand being caught by Peter’s. “Sorry, no time to play tonight. I’ve got work in the morning! I’ll leave a note for the police to find you!” he ended with a punch to the man’s head. He then shook his hand out in pain. “Never get used to that,” he mumbled, lugging the guy against the wall and using his webs to keep him there. They’d dissolve in two hours at most, so he had to grab an officer soon.
It was New York, though. There were policemen everywhere.
As it turned out, there were very few policemen out that night, even less who weren’t trying to arrest him. So, when Peter went back after searching for an hour, he wasn’t surprised to see the criminal gone. “All in a night’s work,” he muttered to himself, rolling his eyes at his own stupidity. With a final frustrated sigh, he swung his way back to his apartment building, pulling himself up to the roof. From there, he changed out of his suit and into his civilian clothes, ready to collapse at any time from exhaustion. The last time he slept was most likely 36 hours ago, when he had failed to sleep because of some crime and had gotten home at 7, causing him to rush and have to walk to school since the bus ran at 7:30 and he missed it by a few minutes. Checking his phone, it was 4:45 in the morning. Not too bad. He could get at least 6 hours of sleep if he went straight to bed when he laid down. Which he would. Each step to his door felt like torture, and every patch of carpet he stepped on was getting comfier and comfier. Thankfully, his door wasn’t too far from the roof. A quick hip to the door after unlocking it and Peter was home. He didn’t remember how he got from his entrance hall to his bed, but he was out as soon as his head hit the pillow.
When Peter woke up feeling somewhat refreshed he knew something was wrong. He felt like he’d maybe slept a whole day (which he honestly needed, but that wasn’t on his priority list), which meant he’d probably slept through his alarm. His phone was too bright for him at the moment, so he forced himself to sit up and look at the analog clock he had on his desk. It read half past 10. “Shit,” he mumbled to himself, already halfway to his closet to get his good jeans and slipping out of the ones he fell asleep in. With the way things were, he was already late to his job on most days. And he was also on tough terms with his boss after he had shared his opinion on some BS Jameson had spit about Spider-man.
“He’s a full blown menace, now, Parker. You seen my latest headline? ‘Spider-man, Friend to Those Who Speed’,” Jameson said, spreading his raised hands apart with every word like he was uncovering something. Peter sighed, shaking the pictures he was trying to hand over to emphasize he had places to be. Jameson snatched them up quickly, looking through and shaking his head. “Clear as ever. As expected. Don’t be bringing me anymore garbage either. You hear me? Those shots last weeks looked shaky at best.”
Peter huffed, bringing his hand back to his side. “They were exactly like all the others I’ve taken. And he’s not a menace. He’s clearly trying to stop those robbers from making a getaway. He used his webs to block the street.”
Jameson looked up and sat down, pulling his half-smoked cigar out of his mouth. The look he gave Peter was no different than the usual disdain, but the air felt different. “He was not. He was blocking the police’s way, trying to let those thieves get away. Luckily, they thought ahead and made sure to come from another way to cut them off. Now get out, payments at the front desk. Three hundred, just like we discussed.”
“You said if I gave you a few more pictures this time you’d make it three seventy-five. And Spider-man wasn’t blocking the police. He would’ve protected them from the cut-off the police made if that were the case.”
“Kid, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were Spider-man’s boyfriend with how much you stand up for him. Go get more pictures. We’ll see about three seventy-five next week,” Jameson shooed him away with his hand, feet up on the desk as he flipped through the photos. He stopped on one, pulling it up to show Peter. “Sir you know- what?” He tilted his head to get a look over the shiny black shoes, his eyes widening comically so when he saw what the picture showed. It was Spider-man, with his mask halfway around his face, like he was pulling it up to put whatever was in his other hand in his mouth. “I don’t remember seeing or taking that. It must’ve been one of the motion-triggered shots.”
“It’s disgusting, is what it is. I’ll give you four fifty if I can use this in the paper tomorrow,” the way he said it made it sound to Peter as if he knew he was going to ask for it back. $450 was a lot for one job. And it’d help him out with his rent that month, especially since there weren’t many different pictures he could bring to The Bugle every week of himself. But it showed almost half of his face. He was lucky enough he didn’t have any identifiable features like a mole or scar. He was practically unable to get scars with his enhanced healing. “I… I can’t. He’d never let me take pictures of him again,” he pleaded. “That’s my biggest job here. Please don’t force my hand.”
Jameson was quiet. He threw the picture in the shredder beside his desk. “Shit quality, anyway. Four-hundred from the lady up front. Don’t be late next time.”
Peter knew Jameson was mad, even if he had given him the extra money. He’d been trying to figure out the identity to Spider-man ever since he appeared. He was disgruntled that after finding a snapshot that almost had a clear view of his face, he couldn't even use it if it meant that he would no longer get all the other pictures. All because of Peter.
In all honesty, Peter wasn’t ashamed about standing up for himself (more than Jameson would know), seeing as he’d been the victim practically all his life -starting around when his parents died. He was tired of playing that game. He was about to graduate high school with nearly perfect grades and he was a superhero for Christ sake. If that wasn’t enough for some people then what else was there to do? That didn’t matter to Jameson. The perfect front page story was worth any price, except for losing his source of those stories. That didn’t mean Peter wasn’t scared for his job. Jameson could completely refuse to pay him his asking price, and he wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing but take it. Finding another job willing to employ a teenager who’d been fired from at least 4 other places seemed an impossible task lately. Asking Aunt May for help only a few months after he’d finally gotten her to agree to let him get his own place would be humiliating at best.
Snatching his keys from the counter, Peter rushed out the door, slammed it shut, and continued on his already terrible day feeling gross and sweaty from last night. A shower hadn’t even crossed his mind in his exhausted state, and definitely not in his haste to get out the door. At least he didn’t smell how he felt.
The threat of Peter actually being fired wasn’t exactly high, but you could never tell with anyone. Or at least, he couldn’t. Reading people wasn’t his thing, and if it were maybe he would be better at either of his jobs. Situations, on the other hand, were another story. He could tell when tension was about to snap and react quickly. But that didn’t exactly help him know when his boss was being serious.
Mumbling to himself on the walk, Peter almost took to biting his nails in his anxiousness. Only time would tell.
The office was busy as usual, bodies moving about, carrying stacks on stacks of papers. Some knew the space well enough they didn’t have to look up to see where they were going. Peter took a few deep breaths, smiling at the pretty and nice lady he never remembered the name of as he passed her. Typically he went straight to Jameson’s office to get his assignment, and that day was no different. What he didn’t expect was to be yanked inside as soon as he knocked on the door. An embarrassing sound escaped him, not that he’d admit to it. “Parker, shut up and sit down.” There was an awkward silence as they both situated themselves in seats on opposite sides of the desk. “I’ve been thinking.” Oh boy . “You were so torn up over that photo the other day. So, that brought me to one of two thoughts: you either know who this spider guy is, or he’s paying you to pretend you know who he is. And I think we both know which is the more reasonable option.”
“And if I do?” Peter countered.
“Picture it, Parker. You’d be the hero of the city, if only you’d tell me who it is.”
The irony was not lost on Peter that if he were to follow along, he would instead be the exact opposite of a hero to his boss. Then, he would really be out of work.
“You can’t possibly expect me to tell you the only secret I’ve been asked to keep.” Mouth agape in shock, Peter stared at Jameson, hoping and praying he was kidding. The stern expression he was sporting was not helping. “I expect you to because I asked you to. What am I to you, a joker?”
Quite possibly , Peter thought to himself. He didn’t even stop to think of what benefits the truth would reap, knowing there would be so many more consequences; he could name a few right off the top of his head. He’d be treated differently everywhere he went, his friends would be in danger, Aunt May would be in danger, hell, even his own house would be in danger. He’d never be just Peter Parker anymore.
“Great. And the other menaces going around? You’ve gotta know them as well if your Spider-friend is always helping them out. What’s that guy’s name that always makes the third page? The Devil? Probably.” Peter almost corrected him - “ Daredevil ,” he wanted to bite - but he held himself back. It was not the time. “No,” he forced out between grit teeth. His head was starting to hurt with the strength it took to keep on one side of the desk.
“Alright. Bye Parker, you’re fired.”
The door to Peter’s right opened, the pretty lady from up front poking her head through. “Sir, ther-” that was as far as she got. “Not now, I’m busy firing him,” Jameson ended by pointing at Peter. She didn’t so much as spare him a glance. “There’s an Eddie Brock on the line. Reporter from The Daily Globe?” There was a silence as Jameson stared at her. “What are you just standing there for? Put him through! Parker, go.”
She did as told right away, and Peter could hear as the line beeped and Eddie was put through to the office phone. He stood slowly, cursing Jameson in his head as he shuffled to the door, ignoring the sympathetic look he garnered from the woman.
“Here? And you need a photographer?”
The line was worthless to Peter, seeing as he’d just been fired and was silently sulking.
“Someone you can- you’re joking. You’re on, I’ll give you my best one.” The phone was all but slammed back onto its stand.
“Parker. Get back here, you’re hired. I’ve got a new job for you. Damn journalist is transferring here for an article, and he wants a trustworthy photographer. He just fired his last. And now I’m hiring you. Be here at five to meet him, and bring me more Spider-man pictures! Now get out!”
For once in his life, Peter didn’t ask questions. He shut the door behind him, heading straight for the elevator with a smile on his face. Peter was almost tempted to say that maybe his cursed luck was finally turning around, but he didn’t want to jinx it. Still, he did appreciate the stroke of luck.